UPDATED: Some Eulogies to Mabel Pollock: From A Loving Niece, Dianne Hale and Maire Vieth

Posted by on Jan 16, 2011 | 2 Comments

Polly, in her beloved Mary Barrett Glade.

Polly, in her beloved Mary Barrett Glade.

Aunty Mabel was one of those rare breeds of people who defied all that was expected of a person. At the loss of a husband, she simply filled his shoes and carried on. No nonsense, just jobs to be done and accomplished one way or the other. The loss of a daughter almost brought her to her knees, however with help she rallied and ever stronger began the project of the Mary Barrett Glade.

Normally when a female is in their sixties, seventies and eighties, they have thoughts of slowing down and relaxing; maybe seeing the world, maybe beginning a project that wasn’t too taxing, but not Mabel.

She took on the world and fought the establishment when they told her she couldn’t accomplish what she believed to be the right and logical course of events. She made a unit under hers, and I mean made a unit. Doing the majority of the work herself but mindful of the safety and help of expert tradesmen she finished the job. The same happened with the Glade, even though by that time her experience and knowledge far outweighed most of those whose counsel she valued. The upshot is Devonport has a reserve that is special in many ways.

Her tenacity,  gotta get done attitude, and hard working ethics were the qualities that I admired in her. Her stamina overshadowed those around her and her faith, love, and loyalty for her family was outstanding.

The thought of family and leaving a record of events was paramount to Aunty Mabel.  It was with fascination that I read the first draft of the first book. My husband went to work at 7, Donald went to school at 8, and I sat on the front steps in the morning sun with a coffee, and began to read. Donald arrived home from school at 3:30 and Ron at 5 and I was still reading. The finish of her story and darkness arrived together.

This was the one and only time I have read a book in a day. I have no idea who made dinner or what happened to anyone else during the day, but I know I had a wonderful time lost in the chapters of my father’s and his sibling’s escapades. I treasure that book as a record that not only brings my father and grandparents near but all of my father’s family. This is the legacy that Mabel has left not only her children but a wider family circle. For that I am eternally thankful.

I shall miss my aunt’s emails, phone calls and visits, and in particular the discussions of family history and local politics. This is one Aunty that will never be forgotten.

K Steen.

From Dianne Hale:

I first met Polly back in 1986 when we both stood for the last Devonport Borough Council.  At that time she was a Taxi driver, and I am not sure whether you realise but she was a pioneer for women to be able to drive Taxis.

I have written a number of references for her subsequent to that time, and I am aware that she has received a number of well deserved environmental awards.  I always admired her strength, energy, focus, innovation and determination.  She developed what was a very over-grown piece of land into a well-planted and welcoming area for people to enjoy and walk through.

The land has always belonged to the Navy, and a couple of years ago they became aware of the concerns expressed by the ARC over some of the materials used to provide retaining and seating, namely old tyres.  Unfortunately Polly’s simple means of retaining land, and providing seating was not deemed appropriate , particularly in a marine environment, and the Navy set about rectifying the situation.  Obviously that caused extreme distress to Polly, who had spent years carting barrow-loads of soil, to fill the tyres, and mulch to keep her native plantings healthy.  Towards the end of last year the Navy reopened the Mary Barrett Glade, and paid credit to Polly for all her work and dedication in the past, and presented her with a medal in recognition.

Polly was an amazing lady, strong, and dedicated to developing an area that all could enjoy.  She named the area after her daughter who died in about 1989, hence the name Mary Barrett Glade. I think that almost everybody would appreciate that while Polly loved natives in general, she was not a huge fan of Pohutakawas, and was always willing, and without consent, to prune them.  On her own decision she pruned the Esmonde Rd and Narrow Neck Pohutakawas and as a result was visited by the compliance and monitoring team from council.

Polly was hugely respected by all who had the pleasure of meeting her and appreciating the huge job that she single handedly undertook in planting the Glade.  Hopefully in the not too distant future, the Navy will be able to find the funds to continue the walkway through to Wesley St, and that would be the best tribute that anybody could offer to that amazing woman.  RIP Polly.

From Maire Vieth:

I first met Polly on a Playcentre trip to Polly’s Park in 2007. We had just moved here from the US, and my son August was handed his first condensed dose of Kiwi spirit that day. Polly had his full attention and that of of all the preschoolers there, as she told them about her ambitious project, rake in hand, pointing out Kauri, Manuka, Punga, Rimu, Kowhai, Puriri, Miro, Puka, Nikau, Cabbage Tree, and many more, explaining how she had turned a dump into her very own native forest. I reckon that thousands and thousands of local children have been through the glade over the years, and that Polly planted a small seed of that Kiwi spirit in all of them.

I also remember Polly as having an extremely generous community spirit. She supported my role as community coordinator in a similar hands on fashion as the glade. For example, when I was asked to organize a welcome back party for our local 2008 Olympic gold medalist Tom Ashley with only two days notice, she showed up on my doorstep to give me a hand. She organized flowers for Tom (lilies from her garden), sorted ot the autograph cards, and soon enough, I was struggling to keep up with her, which, just like most of us, I just couldn’t. The event came and Polly decided to take charge of the New Zealand flag. She had designer her own version of it and proudly flew it on Windsor Reserve that day (see photo attached).

To remember Polly, I recommend a trip to the Mary Barrett Glade but also one to the Devonport Library. The staff there have temporarily set up a special desk in her memory that feature the three books she wrote. You can read all about Polly’s Park in a photographic story about the creation of the Mary Barrett Glade. You can also read about her extraordinary childhood in The Children from the Lighthouse which describes what is was like growing up as the daughter of a light house keeper in the 1930s. Or you can read about Polly’s later years as a hospital nurse, mother, and the first woman public taxicab driver in Auckland in To Work To Wed To Weep To Wander, Polly’s story from 1942 to 1974. All three of them are filled with Polly’s unique voice, spirit and wit.


  1. Ned says:

    Ditto E.S. – the best tribute to Polly would be for the Navy to find a way to complete the walkway.

  2. E.S. says:

    What well-deserved tributes! I am so glad that Dianne Hale mentions that Polly’s walkway is incomplete and expresses the hope that the Navy will complete it. Indeed, that would be the best tribute to Polly and a huge asset for Devonport! It must have broken her heart to see all her very hard work blocked off by a huge fence, so nobody can enjoy it any more.

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